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Engineering field of choice; Leadership conference reinforces career plans

Dylan Quern, a junior this fall at West Fargo High School and member of the 2011 graduating class, spent ten days June 24-July 3, at the University of Maryland participating in a National Leadership Conference (NSLC) in his favored field of engineering.

NSLC was established in 1989 to offer leadership conferences to high school students from around the world in areas of special interest emphasis including: law, medicine and health care, entrepreneurship and business, journalism and mass communication, forensic science, international diplomacy, national security, engineering, sports, and arts, just to name a few. Annually, thousands of students from across the U.S. participate in the program at varying locations.

Dylan spent ten days with a variety of students, including the sixteen people in his engineering group, attending special career-focused workshops and classes, conducted by professors and college students, who engaged the students in hands-on activities that were also enhanced by supplementary trips and tours.

Dylan likened the experience to attending college and living in a dorm, with activities set up on a rigorous schedule structured until mid-evening, followed by social time that included a variety of fun events including a mini-casino and movie time. "It was a great experience. When we started I didn't know anybody, but before the ten days were up, we were all friends. I got to meet and know a lot of people, and had a great time just hanging out."

Dylan isn't sure how he was ultimately selected to enroll in the conference, but had initially expressed an interest when he took his PSAT test. He has always possessed an avid interest in engineering, but is still making up his mind about which area. "Engineering is a thought process that involves breaking things down and seeing how they work. I've always loved to build things," here mentioning Legos and transformers.

"So when I received the information about the conference, I really wanted to do this," Dylan said, but was uncertain because of the registration amount involved. After talking about it over dinner with his parents, Brent and Melissa Quern and grandparents Lyle and Sharon Thompson, all of West Fargo, it was agreed Dylan would be a part of the conference, with the entire family extremely supportive and helpful in making it possible for him to attend.

Emphasis revolved around leadership and people communicating skills, but Dylan said he also learned a great deal about different types of engineering - with hands-on projects including building a wind turbine, and a trebuchet (a catapult that works on a counterweight rather than stored energy being wound up), both activities he described "as fun and games."

His group also built two water robots that were part of a final electrical experiment they were able to test at the Carter Roch naval facility. "They both failed miserably," Dylan said, laughing good-naturedly, "but we had the experience and that made it all worthwhile."

Complementing the study sessions, was time spent touring signature landmark sites in the Washington D.C. area, i.e. Jefferson Memorial, the World War II Memorial, Union Station and Capitol Hill, visiting as many historical points of interest as possible, with special emphasis on the Air and Space Museum. Dylan also had the privilege of visiting the Holocaust Museum, an action he rendered as "sad and kind of eye opening."

Looking back, Dylan said he would repeat the conference again in a heartbeat but next time would select the study areas of forensic science or health to correlate with engineering. "It was a very worthwhile experience, I learned a lot, and it solidified that I'm making the right decision in choosing to be an engineer. I just don't know what the field will be yet."

In addition to participating in the conference, it's been a busy summer at home for Dylan. He will be playing football on the junior varsity football team, with practice starting soon; this is the second season he has served as a camp counselor in the training program at Camp Cormorant in addition to spending five years as a camper, an experience he says he "loves;" plays guitar and performs "once in a while" for family; and is a Tae Kwon Do enthusiast since 2003, having earned his black belt recently under the direction of instructor Daryl Bachmeier.

He also savors special time with his six-year-old sister, Lilly, who he affectionately describes as "bright and a little ball of cuteness;" and his other two sets of grandparents, Darryl "Jake" and Lenaye Quern of Fischer, Minn., and Stephen and Eileen Lee of Leonard.

In the whole scheme of things, Dylan emphasizes that if there is one characteristic trait that he is driven by more than anything, it is honesty in doing what is right in every situation. "I have always been one of those kids who if they want to do something, will do it, but won't break any rules in the process. If there is a keep off the yard sign, you can bet I'll always obey it. And the same applies to other instances in life."

As for school itself, he enjoys it and regards every circumstance as a learning experience. "I like school and make the most of all my time - when I'm bored, I'll look up facts on how an engine works. I view everything as a system that is structured and that's how I approach it, which explains why I want to be an engineer."

Right now his future college plans toward achieving that goal lean toward attending North Dakota State University.